Aug. 17, 2009
By Josh Pate
Dan Williams appears more power than finesse. At least at first glance.
Tennessee's 6-foot-3, 327-pound senior defensive tackle is a pure run stopper and he's also made a name for suffocating quarterbacks in the backfield. And yet Williams bases his life around balancing.
He's a legal studies major - balance. He's applying teachings from separate coaching staffs into one mind that's working to become an all-everything defensive linemen - balance. He works on the run, and works on his pass rush - balance.
Perhaps that's why Williams has a smooth confidence about his approach to this football season.
First Down: He's all ears ...
Williams, like the rest of the Vols, is learning a new approach to his position. He said that's always a good thing, to train the mind to accept different philosophies. And so far it's working.
"Coach Brooks was a laid-back guy. Coach O, he comes out to the practice field every day fired up. They're two different types of teachers," Williams said, not putting preference on either side. "They're both good defensive line coaches. I soaked up everything from Coach Brooks, and now I'm soaking up everything from Coach O. I guess from my standpoint, I've truly been blessed to have two great defensive line coaches."
Second Down: Open for business ...
Williams started nine games last year at defensive tackle and recorded 48 tackles. His oversized frame is designed for stopping the run, although he was second on the team last season with nine quarterback pressures and 8.5 sacks - tied for third on the team.
Under defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's new layout, he'll move a little closer to center when he lines up in the trenches. Doesn't matter to Williams. In fact, it only reinforces his role as a plug in the middle.
"We're here to work. Once we're on the practice field, it's all business," he said. "We know where we want to be and Coach [Lane Kiffin] has given us a plan to tell us how to get there. We play around and joke around sometimes, but once we're on the field it's all business."
Third Down: When it's time to play ...
Williams knows how to dress business casual, too. He's from Memphis, but after three years in Knoxville he's gotten his down-time routine under control. The typical: hang with the roommate, go to teammate Vladimir Richard's house to hang or play video games, or watch movies.
And when it's time to eat, Chandler's is his choice.
"I usually get the ribs and mashed potatoes with macaroni and cheese," Williams said. "It's really good."
Fourth Down: The delicate balance ...
Classes begin Wednesday at the University of Tennessee. For some, time management skills will be put to the test. For student-athletes, they must be a master at that considering classes, papers, exams, practices and games.
Williams, who majors in legal studies and has aspirations of becoming a lawyer one day, said the balance of both academic and athletic priorities has to be top of mind.
"There's a lot of pressure on both," Williams said. "It's a lot when teachers put those papers on you and you know you have practice for four hours that evening, you go home tired but you still have to get your work done. It's like a mean balancing act. Every minute is precious. Sometimes school can be a little overbearing, but you just have to stay focused and get through it."